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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Drums That Heal

Rootead Enrichment Center

It’s nearly impossible to stand still when the sound of the drums is in the air.

Some of the most popular programs presented every summer by Rootead Enrichment Center in Kalamazoo are the Community Drum and Dance events – multi-generational, traditional West African Dance celebrations held at different locations in the community.

A conversation with Jay Young of Rootead

Jay Young is Rootead’s youth and cultural arts director.

“The Rootead mission is to reclaim the village through cultural liberation by holding spaces for internal transformation, healing arts, and birthing justice,” Young says. “My role is the youth and cultural arts director—that’s anything youth-driven and any event open to the community.”

Credit Rootead Enrichment Center
Rootead Enrichment Center

Young began working with Rootead in 2019 as a new graduate of Kalamazoo College when the organization's founder was looking for a personal assistant. But after seeing Young’s resume, she was offered her current position instead.

Young oversees upcoming Community Drum and Dance events, including one at El Concilio Kalamazoo's Health Day at Spring Valley Park on Saturday, August 14, at 11 a.m. It will celebrate the Dundunba rhythm. The “strong man's” rhythm and dance, Dundunba is an iconic West African celebratory rhythm to build power.

Other events September 11 at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and September 25 at Harrison Park in partnership with Urban Zone, and will feature the Kakilambe rhythm. Kakilambe refers both to specific percussion patterns and to a dance that’s symbolic of the celebration of life, crop growth, and the birth of children.

All ages and all levels are encouraged to attend these classes, which are accompanied with live drumming. All events are pay-what-you-can and donation-based with online registration requested.

“I’ve been working for Rootead for two years, and I’m continuing to study West African dance and how it connects with the body and with healing,” Young says. “It’s all connected. I’m just fascinated with all the work our bodies do, with our mental health, how we are in the community, and how we decide to continue to heal whatever experiences or trauma we’ve had.”

For more information or to contact Rootead’s Youth and Cultural Arts Program, email arts-at-rootead-dot-org or call (269) 720-9200.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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